August 2013 Bar Bulletin
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August 2013 Bar Bulletin

Collaborative Law Act on the Books

By Sara K. Wahl


The Uniform Collaborative Law Act, (UCLA) became effective on July 28, making Washington the seventh state to enact the UCLA. The Washington UCLA applies both to family law cases and non-family law disputes.

Collaborative law was conceived as a formal process more than 20 years ago by a family law attorney in Minnesota and today it is currently practiced throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, Israel and other countries around the world.

What Is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative law (also known as collaborative practice) is a voluntary, contractually based, alternative dispute resolution process in which the parties agree to settle their disputes without resorting to litigation. The parties in a collaborative case are represented by attorneys who facilitate interest-based negotiations as opposed to positional negotiations. Often there are other neutral professionals involved in a collaborative case, such as mental health and financial specialists, as needed to help facilitate negotiations.

Collaborative law is unique in that the parties engage in interest-based negotiations rather than traditional positional bargaining. Clients in the collaborative process are empowered to explore ideas and outcomes and make their own informed decisions rather than having a court do so.

Why Is a Law Governing Collaborative Law Needed?

With the UCLA enacted, collaborative law will be practiced under a framework that protects the interests of not only the lawyers, but most importantly the clients, much like the Uniform Mediation Act.

The UCLA establishes minimum requirements for collaborative law participation agreements (the agreement signed by all participants that starts a case); it discusses exactly when the process begins and when and how it may be terminated. The collaborative attorneys are disqualified from representing their respective client if the collaborative law process terminates.

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